Skip to main content

Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

See other formats


285
In the "beginning of 1793 he sent "Wolf from Aule-
ben an essay on the study of the ancients, and espe-
cially of the Greeks, in which he recommends then-
study to every individual by all possible arguments.
This essay was dedicated to Wolf, although it was
also submitted for perusal and criticism to Schiller
and Dalberg; "but we nowhere find it printed, and a
few fragments only have been collected, which have
enabled us to gather the spirit of the work. He gives
*a sketch of the gradual stages of Greek culture., its
peculiar characteristics., and his reasons for recom-
mending it as the best civuizer of the present age, and,
in conclusion, advises the learner not to devote himself
exclusively to the period of the highest Greek civiliza-
tion, but on the contrary to dwell more on the earlier
periods., for in them, he says, are contained the germs
of the really fine character of the Greeks, and it is
more instructive to watch how it was gradually modi-
fied, and finally corrupted.
It was at this period Huraboldt's intention to pro-
duce " a description of the Greek character illustrated
with detailed historical proofs/3 but he soon gave up
the plan on account of the great extent of the work ;
the materials he had collected for the purpose, loom,
however, through all his other works, and make us
regret the non-fulfilment of the great plan.
Among the Greek poets, Pindar and Eschylus occu-
pied his attention principally, and he has translated
several of the works of the former. There is no surer
way of penetrating the spirit or the language of a
nation than by a constantly continued attempt to re-
produce its authors, and especially its poets, with the
utmost possible fidelity in the mother tongue. Hum-
boldt devoted much time to this occupation, arid suc-
ceeded in Ms efforts better than any known Greek
translator. His translations from the Greek are the
only ones in German which combine fidelity in form and
matter with clearness and ease of expression* It had
once been Ms wish to translate the whole of Pindar,
bxit in 1795 he gave up all hopes of the realization